Best Fragrant Shrubs for Mountain Gardens

03/15/2019 | Ken Davis In the Garden, Plant Care, Roses, Shrubs

by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Shrubs have many uses in a landscape, but gardeners who especially appreciate sweet-smelling plants are drawn to the most fragrant shrubs. Whether cold-hardy or tropical, bushes in this group are valued for scenting the air and thereby diversifying the enjoyment of our yards. The blooms on many of these plants also boast great beauty.

Clockwise: Daphne, Purple Leaf Sand Cherry,
Gardenia, Spice Viburnum

Daphne is one of the most fragrant shrubs. It’s endowed with variegated leaves, a compact stature, and matures to about 3 feet tall.  It grows best in partial sun to partial shade.


Purple-Leaf Sand Cherry has sweet-smelling blossoms in spring, but this ornamental cherry has decorative value throughout the growing season thanks to its purplish foliage. Purple-leaf sand cherry can reach a tree-like 8 feet tall if allowed, but many gardeners choose to keep it pruned down to a shrub of 5 to 7 feet high.  Plant in blistering sun locations, give it adequate drainage, and water it moderately.


Gardenia is easily one of the most fragrant blooming shrubs.  Its stark-white blooms stand out against its glossy, dark green foliage. It grows to 4′ tall.  This attractive shrub blooms best in partial shade, requires good drainage, a moderate amount of water, and compost.  Several locally hardy gardenias are available at Watters Garden Center this spring.
Spice Viburnum is such a fragrant shrub that one of its other common names is “fragrant spicebush.” Grows to 5 feet tall and puts out clusters of sweet-smelling flowers with exceptional fall color.  Blooms best in at least 6 hours of sun.

Clockwise: Mock Orange, Lilacs
Lavender, Roses

Mock Orange  is one of the most popular, fragrant, Prescott spring bloomers. The strongly orange-scented white flowers are guaranteed each spring with minimal care.  Grows naturally to 6′ tall and blooms best in full sun.

Lilacs are so easy to grow in Arizona and give off a robust fragrance (many of them reasonably new cultivars).  Although the traditional common lilac (S. vulgaris) can become an unwieldy20 feet tall, it still offers the most intoxicating fragrance. Miss Kim (S. pubescens subsp. Patula Miss Kim) and Bloomerang (S. x Bloomerang), are examples of lilacs with potent scents that appeal to many gardeners because of their more compact sizes.  But, they can’t hold a candle to the common lilac when it comes to fragrance!

Roses are practically synonymous with fragrant shrubs in the minds of many gardeners.  Most are compact (3 feet x 3 feet), has double blooms, is easy to grow, is disease-resistant, and flowers for a long time. Little wonder that it’s enjoyed a popularity of hundreds of years.

Fragrance Does Not Come Only From Flowers


Lavender is an example of a shrub with a great scent that gets its aroma from its foliage. It often is dried and used in potpourri and sachet bags. Many other perennials, ground covers, and herbs grace the landscape with aromatic leaves. The beautiful thing about relying on foliage (rather than flowers) for fragrance is that leaves stay around a lot longer than a plant’s flowers.

57th Spring Open House  March 16 & 17 – It was 57 years ago this month that Watters Garden Center opened its doors as the first nursery in Northern Arizona.  This year we will introduce new plant varieties, new flower colors, and a vast selection of cold-hardy blooming baskets specially grown for the event.  Meet our growers and talk directly to the plant breeders that have made Watters Garden Center the favorite of gardeners for all these years. 

Until next issue, I’ll be here at Watters Garden Center helping local gardeners choose just the right fragrance for their own gardens. 

Ken can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at WattersGardenCenter.com  or  FB.com/WattersGardenCenter .



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